Sleep is an essential component to our physical and mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, in our fast paced culture, sleep seems to be put on the backburner: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”; the reality is, “you’ll be dead if you don’t sleep.” When we sleep our body undergoes a restoration process; brain chemicals are restored and the body receives much needed rest.
Have you ever notice that you sleep more when you’re sick? That’s because your body is mending itself. Your body is physically making you slow down so that it can nourish and repair itself.
Without an ample amount of quality sleep, we experience burnout and fatigue and we are more susceptible to illness and plain ol' grouchiness.
A good night's rest not only leaves you feeling refreshed, alert and ready to take on the day but can improve your mood, lower stress levels, help maintain a healthy weight and decrease anxiety.
I consider myself to be a sleep queen in that I take sleep very seriously as it directly affects the rest of my life. Restless sleep affects my mood and behavior and increases my anxiety. Frequent nights of restless sleep can keep me in the anxiety loop. If you experience anxiety, I encourage you to make getting a good night's rest a priority and watch how the rest of your world begins to, seemingly effortlessly, change.
5 Tips for Better Zzzz’s
Learning your body’s natural sleep cycles and honoring them with drastically improve your quality of sleep. It is important to note that not everyone needs the same amount of sleep during the night, some of us need more sleep than others to feel well rested and ready to take on the day ahead.
Experiment: Notice when you start to feel tired at night and begin your nighttime routine. Sometimes if we push ourselves past the time when we are feeling sleepy, we may experience an unwanted boost of energy later, making it harder to fall asleep. Note the time you wake up naturally, and relish in the bliss of waking up at your leisure. I recommend doing this experiment a few times to get an average idea of your personalized natural cycle.
* I recommend exploring your natural cycles on an evening when you’re at home and do not need an alarm to wake up the next morning (you don’t have to be anywhere at a particular time).
Personal example: I naturally begin to wind down between 8- 9pm and I put myself to bed between 9-10pm. If I push myself to stay up later this will often give me an energy boost making it more challenging to fall asleep and often resulting in restless sleep. I naturally arise anywhere between 5:30-7am. For you math wizzes out there, you probably already noticed that I require a longer period of sleep than most. I am a creature that operates best between 8-10 hours of restful sleep.
Essential oils truly are a gift from Mother Nature and they are a wonderful aide for sleep. I personally recommend lavender, vetiver and Serenity (a blend by doTerra). There are two ways to use essential oils for sleep: topically and aromatically.
When applying oils topically (to your skin) you will want to mix them with a carrier oil. I personally like sesame and almond oil. Since I know I’m going to use this blend regularly, I mix my oils into a 4 oz dropper bottle that sits next to my bed. The majority of the bottle is filled with my carrier oil. I then add 10-15 drops of lavender and 10-15 drops of Serenity. Vetiver is a heavier oil that I don’t use every night. On the nights that I use vetiver, I mix 1-2 drops in my hand with 2-3 droppers of the lavender/Serenity blend.
Now for the good stuff- I then massage my feet with the oil. Why the feet? The feet have much larger pores than the rest of the body and they don’t have sebaceous glands which acts as a barrier- making them the perfect place to apply oils- quick and effective absorption. Indulge in this experience, lovingly massage your feet and enjoy the relaxing sensations. *Be sure to place socks over your feet when you’re done so that the oil doesn’t get everywhere.
To use oils aromatically, you’ll need a diffuser. You can purchase reasonably priced ones on Amazon. If you plan to leave your diffuser on while you sleep, be sure to purchase one that has an automatic shut off, like this one.
Fill the diffuser with water to the water line and add 2-4 drops of lavender 2-4 drops of Serenity and 1-2 drops of vetiver. Place your diffuser in a location where the scents will wash over you throughout the night.
*When purchasing oils be sure to choose quality products. I personally use and recommend doTerra and Young Living, but they can be pricey. Do your research to find an oil that best meets your needs.
Ashwagandha is an herb used in Ayurveda that is helpful in preventing anxiety, relieving insomnia and reducing stress-induced depression, amongst many other benefits. I first began taking ashwagandha in the morning to increase energy and stamina however, I personally found that it made me groggy and sleepy, and therefore I switched to taking it at night as a part of my bedtime routine. I use the powder form and mix about half of a spoonful with hot water and fresh juiced ginger cubes. Ashwagandha has an earthy taste to it, which some may not care for. You can also mix it with warm milk, which may help with the earthy taste.
I only recently discovered binaural beats and to be frank, I can't get enough of them. I find them to be profoundly healing for the body and mind. You can find a plethora of binaural beat tracks available on YouTube- for Free! What makes binaural beats unique is that you must listen to them with headphones on and the reasoning for doing so is that one frequency is being sent into one headphone while a different frequency is being sent into the other, voila- binaural beat. For sleep I recommend finding a sleep specific track or a theta focused one. Simply plug in and play as you rest in the comfort of your bed.
A regular practice of Yoga Nidra will improve your quality of sleep. The systematic technique is designed in enhance full body relaxation and rejuvenation. Through a regular practice the body and mind, effortlessly, learn how to relax more easily, to let go of the day and drop into the alpha-theta space of deep relaxation.
Purchase Yoga Nidra MP3's on my website www.MelindaQuesenberry.com
* The practices and information provided in this article are for educational purposes only. They are not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure physical or emotional conditions. They are not intended as a replacement for medical advice.